A Social Project by Natasha Sichula and her team - but who is Natasha Sichula?
I’m sure you all are wondering, as I am, who is Natasha Sichula and why does she at such a tender age want to play a role in supporting mothers and empower women simultaneously. This prompted me to ask her to tell me a little more about herself.
Natasha Sichula was a remarkable student at Fatima Girls' Secondary school with a dream of studying medicine. She said ‘I always knew I wanted to be a doctor’.
Scholarship to study in the USA
While at Fatima Girls' Secondary school, here in Zambia, Natasha did not go unnoticed by the Headmistress, Sr Angela O.P., and she was then nominated for a scholarship to study in the United States of America. Natasha was a nominee amongst several other African students and after a series of tests; she was selected and granted a scholarship to study in the US.
While studying in the US, she participated in a beauty pageant in which she was crowned with the title: Miss Zambia in the US 2017. I'm sure you're thinking but what does this have to do with the social project?
The beauty pageant platform presented her with several opportunities to advocate for positive change in our home country, Zambia. When presented with this opportunity Natasha said “I want to be an advocate for women empowerment and better healthcare”.
The Clinton Global Initiative
Before Natasha could come up with a social project that would advocate for positive change in Zambia, as fate would have it, Natasha was given the privilege of attending the Clinton Global Initiative in 2018. Natasha Sichula among 1600 students from all over the world attended the Initiative and received training and Mentorship on how to start up and manage an organization.
Most people look and think, she is one lucky girl, however it hasn’t always been rosy for the 20 year old, at the age of 7 she lost her father and her mother has been battling an illness for some time now. In addition to this, her sister fell pregnant at the age of 16 and was exposed to prejudice, negative remarks and was discriminated against by family and healthcare providers because falling pregnant at a tender age AND with no life partner is considered a Taboo in her community.
What inspired Natasha to pioneer the project
Natasha says her sister's ill treatment from care providers; her father's tireless efforts to empower her mother and her mother's illness all bore a passion in her to want to advocate for better healthcare services for pregnant women and at the same time empower women in her community. So when presented with the opportunity at the beauty pageant and the vast amount of knowledge and skills she obtained from the Clinton Global Initiative, she decided she would spearhead a project that not only provides women with better healthcare but empowers them as well. Therefore, Natasha Sichula took advantage of the platform and was put into contact with Mr. Hans Spiegel, who in turn connected her to Mrs. Tamara Phiri and Mrs. Mary MulengaWincierz, who are both advocates for Maternity protection and women empowerment, and together they founded the Gracious Foundation for Maternity Protection Zambia (GFMPZ).
Mrs. Tamara Phiri & Mrs. Mary Mulenga Wincierz
The Gracious Foundation for Maternity Protection Zambia
GFMPZ is a Non Profit organization in Zambia that aims to build the holistic support that ensures the economic success of underprivileged pregnant women and babies by promoting both sustainability and empowerment of women through training, entrepreneurship and grooming women for employment. Although the organization prioritizes sustainability and empowerment it encourages material assistance when need be.
What Inspired the Dollar for a Diaper
The dollar for a diaper was inspired by the personal experiences Natasha and the GFMPZ co founders had and also in line with the objective of the organization. A dollar for a diaper is a social project that is currently being pioneered by GFMPZ with an aim of assisting underprivileged mothers and premature babies at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Zambia's largest hospital: the University Teaching Hospital (UTH).
The project began with Natasha and her colleagues brainstorming the idea of assisting the underprivileged mothers and premature babies. This was followed by the team setting a goal of fundraising $300.00 for the cause. Natasha came up with the idea of using social media as a platform to raise the funds and they were able to beat their goal and fundraised $450.00 which allowed them to purchase 2,143 jumbo packets of diapers that are currently being donated at the neonatal ICU ward at UTH.
Importance of the Cause
A dollar for a diaper not only assists underprivileged pregnant women but also provides for underprivileged premature babies in the ICU at UTH by donating diapers that are recommended as opposed to the nappies that their mothers can afford. Nappies cannot be worn by premature babies in the neonatal ICU because they are prone to bacteria which could result in the child dying. In addition to purchasing diapers for the underprivileged pregnant women, the Gracious Foundation for Maternity protection also collects donations of baby clothes, baby socks, and receiver blankets.
Once these donations are collected, GFMPZ proceeds to create a ‘care package’ for each underprivileged woman. Each care package consists of; 10 pieces of clothing, a pair of shoes and a blanket. The organization also donated similar care packages to Mukulu Community Centre in Kabwe.
The number of People Impacted
The project is well received, is reaching several women and impacting a lot of people’s lives. However, the organization cannot yet disclose how many people the project has impacted because the project is still ongoing.
The organization did however state that their goal is to reach as many people as possible and are measuring their success by the reduction in infant and maternal mortality rate in Zambia per year.
Key Challenges the project is facing.
Natasha states that the project has been a success and has exceeded their expectations. However, looking into the future, Natasha and the team hope that the project will be self sustaining and not have to depend on donations or grants from people in the community. Therefore, the foundation, is currently working on a project that will allow the organization to be financially sustainable to carry out the project and scale it up simultaneously.
The Gracious Foundation for Maternity Protection Zambia (GFMPZ) is currently a contender in
the ‘Total Starter Upper Competition.’ In this competition, the organization has come up with a project that allows the organization to be sustainable and empower women simultaneously.
This project starts with GFMPZ acquiring poultry and reselling this poultry to women that can raise this poultry and sell it. The organization and the women then sign a contract that stipulates that for every profit 10% has to be given to the organization. Another term in the contract that is to be signed by the women they aim to empower is that the women attend empowerment classes. In conclusion, this will allow the organization to empower and groom women.
Natasha goes on to state most people wonder ‘how will they measure the success of the Starter Upper project?’; The measure of success is reduced infant and maternal mortality rates in Zambia.
GFMPZ believe chicken rearing will be able to raise funds to access healthcare, education, family planning and better nutrition for their families. Women’s access to social amenities will reduce maternal mortality rate and ultimately reduce infant mortality rate.
Plans for the Future
The Gracious Foundation for Maternity Protection Zambia is currently located in Lusaka but plans to open a centre in each of the ten (10) provinces in Zambia and also plan to work with other organizations (organizations that aim to increase women empowerment or protect mothers) to increase their presence and outreach. In addition to this, GFMPZ also plan to involve more youth in their projects, as they say “The youth are the driving force of any community”
Natasha has advice for her fellow youths across the world:
“You have to believe in yourself, remember that nothing big started with just sitting still. Also remember the importance of partnerships, find someone or a community that wants to foster your ideas and share your passions. Never forget that so long as there is a need in the world know that you are needed in the world.”